Cleaners' revolt continues

Submitted by Matthew on 21 November, 2012 - 12:39

Rail cleaners across multiple services and contracts will strike together on Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December.

ISS cleaners on London Midland and East Coast service, Carlisle cleaners on the Docklands Light Railway and First TransPennine Express, Churchill cleaners on the Tyne & Wear Metro, and Initial cleaners on London Underground are all in dispute with their employers over a raft of issues including living wages, sick pay, and pension rights. Cleaners on four of the contracts had previously struck together on 2 November, while Tube cleaners took high-profile strike action during the London Olympic Games this summer.

As well as picketing stations and depots, cleaners will hold rallies in every town affected by the strike. The RMT has declared its intention to strike again over the Christmas period. Janine Booth, who represents London Transport workers on the RMT Executive, said: “Every trade unionist, socialist, and decent human being should get behind the cleaners’ strikes.

“Our different disputes are coming together as a national movement which, with support and solidarity, can win.”

A London rally will also take place in Conway Hall at 7pm Thursday 29 November.

Despite winning the London Living Wage last year, following a dynamic and militant campaign, sub-contracted workers (cleaners, catering staff, and others) at the University of London do not have access to the same pensions, sick pay, and holiday rights as their directly-employed colleagues.

Workers have launched the “3 Cosas” (“Three Causes”) campaign to fight around those issue. University of London’s central administration — which includes the Senate House library and the intercollegiate halls of residence — outsources its cleaning, maintenance, security, and catering services. Aramark takes care of catering, and Balfour Beatty Workplace does everything else. These companies have their own employment and wage policies and their own standards about what constitutes fair treatment in the workplace, distinct from the policies and procedures of the main employer.

Can the university afford these basic rights? Yes, without question. The University has operating surpluses of £4.1 and £2.8 million in the 2010/11 and 2009/10 academic years, respectively. Furthermore, as of end of July 2011, the University of London had £93.2 million in reserves.

So far the campaign has primarily been about building involvement of wider sections of the workers, and building the campaign amongst students. There is growing media attention on the campaign, and the workers even spoke alongside David Miliband at the launch of the Labour Party’s own Living Wage “campaign”.

Recently, the campaign sought their Unison branch’s support for the demands of the campaign and funding for much needed campaign materials. This was rejected. The leadership of the local branch have played disgraceful role, backed up by bureaucrats in the regional office. They have claimed that supporting the campaign would be “illegal”, and because it is not being run directly by the branch, they cannot provide funding. The regional office have even stepped in to conduct management’s propaganda campaign for them and say that the pensions demand is not possible!

Workers within the branch are continuing their pressure on the leadership, but are growing increasingly frustrated.

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